The owners of Brophy Bros. restaurant at the Santa Barbara Harbor want to close their first-floor retail shop, called 'The Store,' and replace it with a large clam bar.
The owners of Brophy Bros. restaurant at the Santa Barbara Harbor want to close their first-floor retail shop, called 'The Store,' and replace it with a large clam bar. Credit: Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo

The demise of brick-and-mortar retail has hit the Santa Barbara Harbor.

The owners of Brophy Bros. restaurant want to close their first-floor retail shop, called “The Store,” and replace it with a large clam bar.

“A recent review of our business operations … revealed that the space we have
devoted to retail sales of Brophy swag and related items on the ground floor below the
restaurant is no longer the highest and best use of that space,” Brophy Bros. said in a letter to the city of Santa Barbara.

Brophy Bros. restaurant is one of the top five restaurants in the country in revenues per square foot, according to the waterfront department.

“The revenues generated by the leased space we have devoted to retail is a fraction
of the revenues that would be generated by the same space devoted to food and
beverage operations,” according to Brophy Bros.

The Harbor Commission voted unanimously 7-0 last week to support changing the use of the building from retail to restaurant. Next, it will go before the city Planning Commission.

The 521-square-foot retail shop, 119-C Harbor Way, sells leisure and resort wear, including casual clothing, sunglasses, beach bags, hats, jewelry, and other Brophy Bros. merchandise.

Next door is 119-D, also owned by Brophy Bros., and is a smaller clam bar area.

“The idea with this is to combine the two spaces by removing the wall in the middle,” said Cesar Barrios, Waterfront Department business manager.

Brophy Bros. said that the restaurant still generates long wait lines on the ground floor
in front of the building, where the current retail store is located.

“Shifting our ground floor footage to restaurant services will also allow us to stick
to our knitting as restaurateurs, and leave the retailing to the many competent
retailers located in the harbor area,” the company said in a letter to the city.

“We all succeed when we work together rather than competing for hard-to-come-by retail revenues.”

Harbor Commissioner Michael Nelson said he supports the change in use, but had some questions about the menu.

“I love oysters and I love mussels, will they serve a variety of things, or just serve clam strips?” Nelson asked.

Barrios said he expects a variety of seafood at the new shop.

The parent company, Brophy & Sons Inc., currently holds one lease agreement with the city’s Waterfront Department.

The lease includes the upstairs Brophy Bros. restaurant, an existing clam bar downstairs, the nearby On the Alley restaurant, and a trash enclosure area.

In Brophy Bros.’ letter to the city, the company outlined its situation.

“With the emergence of Amazon’s shop-from-home model and the business interruption
of the COVID pandemic, every shopping mall owner across the country has had to
rethink its brick-and-mortar retail operations,” the letter states.

Shopping malls are moving from retail to restaurants, theaters and other experiential attractions.

“This seismic shift in how Americans spend their money and how the leading shopping mall owners have responded inspired us at Brophy Bros. to take a hard look at our own little retail operation,” they said.